Prime Minister Shinzo Abe isn’t just offering $30 billion to African countries, he wants something in return.
He wants their votes in support of Japan becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and greater access for Japanese trade and investment in Africa.
The road ahead may be tough, with China already committing more to the continent — Beijing pledged $60 billion dollars last year — and seeking to block Japan from becoming a permanent Security Council member.
“You have the right to have your opinion reflected in the international community. U.N. reform is a joint goal for Japan and Africa,” Abe said in a keynote speech on Saturday during the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi.
Of 193 U.N. member nations, 54 are in Africa, or about 30 percent of the total.
“To become a permanent UNSC member, cooperation with African nations is a must,” a senior Japanese government official said.
In offering the aid, Abe stressed that Tokyo will offer funds for infrastructure and training to boost stability in the region.
Abe hinted in his speech that Japan would be a better partner than rivals, but he stopped short of naming China.
“Japan bears the responsibility of fostering the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and of Asia and Africa into a place that values freedom, the rule of law, and the market economy, free from force or coercion, and making it prosperous,” Abe said.
Meanwhile, China made its hand felt at the summit, a Japanese official said.
When Japan and African governments were negotiating the wording of the Nairobi Declaration, to be issued at the end of TICAD, some nations opposed including a reference to the U.N. reform that Tokyo wanted in, the official said.
“They were those that are close to China,” the official said.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has veto rights. To defeat this, Japan hoped to gain unanimous support from African nations. It has fallen short so far.
At the U.N. General Assembly in 2005, Japan, Germany, Brazil and India — the quartet angling for permanent seats — proposed adding another two permanent seats for African nations.
But after opposition from China and differences of opinion between African Union members over the veto rights, the proposal was scrapped.